Prattsville New York : A Modest Proposal


I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, stick my nose in others business, spoil the new town.  Just offering a more modest solution that the town could boot strap into if need be, and I'm sure way before a new town is built by FEMA.


There was a town and church in England that long ago hired a hard hat diver to dig out the rotted wood piles under the cathedral in town, and replace with concrete.  It took the rest of his life. 


There's no particular reason the berms, gabiens and raised areas couldn't be filled in the same way, by one town / county employee working on it daily. 


More likely to flood in the meantime?  Maybe.  However, start with stream clearing and shaping, easily done in 1 yr, in 2012, and NORMAL flooding shouldn't be a problem.  Get in the major berms and gabiens and that might reduce even extreme 300 yrs flood to limited first floor damage, one person, could take a decade to do this.  Still, 10 yrs, not that far away.  NOLA is still waiting for those 300 yr levees, 7 yrs after Katrina.


Yes, it's really hard to STOP mother nature, but, if that's the only recourse, , that's what you have to do.  Stopping the Flooding is of course, impossible, but minimizing it, shortening duration, depth, and severity are possible.



The Stream:  Clean the Stream:  If DEP, DEC or any gov't agency says you can't, or you need to spend a million on enviornmental studies, or pollution mitigation during the work, hire an attorney, sue for illegal taking.  If the gov't stops you from doing what is reasonable and economically viable to protect your property, then it's an illegal takinig.  The gov't buys your home or business, or lets you do what you have to.  Towns in the mountains were keeping streams clear to prevent flooding in towns for hundreds of years, with no adverse effect to the enviornment.  You don't need to steam sterilize the excavators, just make sure they are hosed down before they wade in and don't leak anything while in there.  OR  do it like we used to, with min. security prisoners, heh, it worked, and if you've decided you have no use for civilized society, don't give me any crap about your right not to have to work for 3 square meals and roof over your head. 


Dig the bed down to it's historic level, and shape it into a V.  The concentrated water in the V will keep rock rolling instead of settling out and building up the bottom until it's flush with main street.  Dig out trees and shrubs from withing the water way.  Plant more trees and shrubs on the banks, forsythia is a great one to trap debris and build up land, spread naturally, take a beating, decrease flow / erosion.


Dam above town - guess you can't get rid of it, stops fish from migrating??? Weird.  Instead, line road above and below it with Jersey barriers topped with decorative Corten steel panel (cut in relief of mountains, etc).  Secure with rock anchors, rods through barriers 20 feet into earth.  Simple inexpensive drills do this type of work.  Stockpile Jersey barriers to be stacked on road to stop flood coming down road (around barriers lining road / between road and stream.  Anchor against berm brought out from nearby steep hillside.  Alt:  Swinging metal gate against hillside and anchored to it.


Sweeping curve below dam:  Berm it.  If gov't won't, use DIY gabions filled by volunteers, local business sponsors, town and county work crews with materials from road clearing, flood clearing, etc..  Has to be dumped somewhere.  Over time dump organics, trees, dirt against land side of gabions and plant with trees.  Plant stream side with invasive local plant like forsythia to anchor ground, hide berm, slow water speed agains berm.


Stream in middle of town:  Wall it in, with as wide a right a way as possible.


All the above lessens flooding, it'll never stop it.  To keep the town alive and undamaged, more must be done.




The homes and buildings - Well, it's probably too late by now, if it was condemed, it's probably knocked down.  However:

If it isn't, if it "looks" ok, it's it's not leaning too much, if the water height wasn't over 6 feet or so, if it's about where you can live with it sitting.  If, if, if.   The short of it, just because FEMA called it condemed, dosen't mean you have to start over. 

The key is to remove the siding, which if origional and wood, probably wasn't holding a coat of paint to save it's life, taking out whatever tilt you can (I'm assuming it tilted to begin with, most old places do) then SCREW in 3/4 inch PLYWOOD over the whole outside, over the old wood sheating.  Why screws?  Stronger AND no pounding on the building to break up plaster, dislodge other materials / framing.  You'll end up with a VERY strong box that can take being raised, moved a bit even without the cost of a house moving company. 

Now I know, "it's easier" to start over, "it's cheaper in the end".  Well, maybe, maybe not.  depends what you can save, what you can NOT demolish, what you can live with

Well, unless you are independtly wealthy, you won't be able to afford your dream house, so you'll settle, you won't be able to afford a fantastic design professional to make sure it's your dream.  You'll settle. 

If you are going to settle, save your money and you'll get just as much back by settling.  You'll get back:

An old growth full dimension wood frame far stronger than anything built with todays reduced dimension and weaker farmed wood, or lower durability and higher cost of engineered woods.

Better sound proofing - assuming you can save your old plaster walls and ceilings as well as exterior sheathing.  By which I mean you'll be covering the plaster up with gypsum board, and re-sheathing with plywood, so there won't be excessive costs related to repairing cracked plaster.  You'll end up with very heavy, air tight, and thus sound tight walls.  Never sound proof, but far more than a modern wall.

Ecological kudos:  Won't put food in the pot, but take some photos during rebuilding, and MAYBE, someday, it'll help if you sell, to find someone who'll be impressed, and you'll get your sale.  This should also give you a warm fuzzy feeling AND let you get  bragging rights over anyone who "only" recycles trash.  YOU RECYC LED A WHOLE HOUSE.


Raise the town - The buildings:  Not crazy.  Raising a building striaght up is pretty easy.  Aim for 3 feet above road level.  Yes, all utility connections have to redone.  It's going to crack the plaster.  All wiring and plumbing will need a good test afterwards.  NOT BIG ISSUES.  You're talking 1o's of thousands a house, 50G tops.  Benefit, for many old country buildings, first time a concrete foundation will be under it. You'll be shocked at how they stop vermin, insects and heat loss. 


Raise the town - The land:  Even less crazy.  Fill in around the raised buildings, between the buildings, and you've now created a super berm.  50 or more feet wide, with concrete foundations anchoring it frequently.  Add a gabion and plantings along the stream edge of the raised land, and you'll protect it from washout.  Again, this could be done locally, with town and county workers, sponsored from businesses, and over time, contracted out a steep discount for local GC's to do when they don't otherwise have paying clients.   If the town draws from the land between the two streams, to create as many playing fields as possible then that lowered area will also act to absorb flood waters.


Raise the town - where do customers and residents park if not on the street or garages.  Run the super berm oover that road between the town and stream, then ramp up a road onto the raised area, running in back of the buildings, park there.  Limited street parking where steps up to raised area can be accomodated, and whatever parking lots that can be created, and the main intersection in town is one.  See the illustrations.


Raise the town - how to get shoppers to shops?  Now that the town is 3 feet above road level, make lemons from lemonade.  Put in a board walk, and enclose it to make getting up and down mainstreet easier all year long. This could enhance Prattsville as a place to live, retire to, have a second home, etc..  ie, easy year round access to buildings, tempered from a sometimes tough climate.  Businesses along a walk or enclosed boardwalk would probably have more people meandering by, which could translate to sales.


State Road Improvements:  Redo the approaches to the bridge, lowering the land and road so when the bridge is clogged with storm debris, the water can flow around without backing up into town.  Not my idea, even the Afghans have been doing it for the last several hundred years. 




The gov't plan.


The problem with PLANNING towns, PLANNING change, is that it offends nature.  Nature likes everything to happen organically, naturally, of it's own free will, etc..  Nature abors a vacum, and it abors control (ironic when I'm saying you need to control the flooding, eh?). 


You'll get a town square.  So, where is the town square now???  Not one?  Then probably don't need one.  A very successful planner once told me, as we were getting ready to figure out what some blasted down town "could be" told me if there were supposed to be stores, malls, aparment buildings, etc. in this blighted area, there would be.  Anything the gov't could do was unlikely to ever change what economics and human nature had made the area.  


For that matter, NOLA is still waiting for the new planned communties they were told were coming.  Heck, they are waiting for the levees to keep another Katrina from finishing the job the first started.  For better or worse, those in most gov't agencies related to flooding are those who believe more in the enviornment than people, not in a mean way, they think they are doing what's right, and you well know, we need to protect ourselves from people who think they are doing right.  Planners being paid by gov't money will tend to say what the gov't wants them to, not what their "clients", the flood ravaged most need to restore and protect their lives and property.


I'd estimate the cost of the new town, along with all the new building in the old town, and someone explain why the go'vt would pay for both, at a hundred million.  It'll take 5 yrs planning before purchasing the land starts, then a few years of that, and spending more money than planned as greedy landowners start holding out, then another 5 years of site engineering and prep, a few years for a new sewer plant, delays getting elec and phone and cable in.  THEN you get to start building homes and shops, and unless workers are imported and housed locally, a dozen or two a year.  More the community buildings.  Say 20 years min.  If the all the changes in gov't don't derail the scheme along the way.


The one caveat, if the gov't is willing to buy the town lock stock and barrel at pre recession prices, or at least prices that you all can easily go wherever you want and buy what you want, GO FOR IT!